Diabetes is a complex, metabolic disease that affects our entire body, and the eyes are no exception. The increase in blood sugar due to diabetes results in damage to small blood vessels all over the body, and diabetes is said to have other effects too, through the mechanism of insulin resistance.
What is the connection between Diabetes and Eye Diseases?
Diabetes, especially when uncontrolled can damage the small blood vessels in the eye, which become fragile and may bleed, or leak protein into the retina. This is called diabetic eye disease, and consists of three distinct clinical pictures. These include:
Diabetic retinopathy, including proliferative and non-proliferative
Diabetic macular edema or maculopathy
Diabetic optic neuropathy
In addition, diabetes can also increase the incidence and progression of cataract and glaucoma.
What is the connection between Diabetes and glaucoma?
Primary glaucoma and diabetes: Glaucoma is a disease in which the pressure of the eye increases, and causes damage to the optic nerve. The risk of glaucoma in people with diabetes is two times that of normal population. Also, the risk of glaucoma progression is more in people with uncontrolled blood sugars. This is true for primary glaucoma, which is not attributed to any secondary cause.
Secondary glaucoma and diabetes: There is a special kind of glaucoma which is relatively rare, called neovascular glaucoma, secondary to abnormalities in the eyes. The most common cause of neovascular glaucoma is diabetes.
Prolonged abnormal blood sugars result in the formation of new, abnormal blood vessels on the retina, and this disease is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy. Neovascular glaucoma can occur if these new blood vessels grow on the iris (the brown or black part of the eye) as well. This causes a mechanical obstruction to drainage of fluid from the eye, raising the eye pressure. Neovascular glaucoma treatment is much more complicated than treatment of primary glaucoma and constitutes an emergency and can cause permanent loss of vision in a very short time.
Read More: (Can Vision Loss From Glaucoma Be Regained?)
How can we protect our eyes from diabetes and glaucoma?
Experts believe that diabetes, diabetes duration, and fasting glucose levels are associated with a significantly increased risk of glaucoma, and that good blood sugar control can lower this risk.
So the important things to remember in order to protect your eyes, in view of the connection between diabetes and glaucoma are the following:
Ensure strict blood sugar, blood pressure and serum cholesterol control in order to minimize the risk of both, diabetic eye disease and glaucoma.
A healthy balanced diet and adequate exercise are essential to maintain good overall health, as well as health of the eyes.
Make sure you are prompt and regular for your annual eye examination. A comprehensive eye examination carried out at least once a year can ensure early detection and treatment of both diabetic eye disease and glaucoma, since both these potentially blinding diseases have no symptoms in the initial stages.
Not only is it important to remember the connection between diabetes and glaucoma, we must remember that diabetes is associated with several other eye diseases as well, and must be managed with great care so as to ensure a good quality of life and vision for those who suffer from the disease.